Entrepreneurship isn’t all sunshine and rainbows

Success comes to those who are driven and focused, but sometimes even the most motivated individuals fail. And this is what’s happening to many young entrepreneurs in the country. While some already left their entrepreneurial journey, some more are planning to do so. 

Started by seven people with a big dream in 2019, the Miniature Bhutan company is left with only one member today. Sonam Tashi who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration is the last man standing and his business is not thriving either.

The group of entrepreneurs started the company to produce souvenirs with the essence of Bhutan since most souvenirs available in the market were imported from countries like Nepal, India and China. They started their dream from the start-up centre in Changzamtog in Thimphu. They used to earn about Nu 45,000 a month back then.

And then the COVID pandemic derailed their dreams. His partners left the company looking for better opportunities abroad and within the country. Sonam could not abandon his dream even when the company almost ceased to exist. He clung to it hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel. But the wait was long and his hope grew dimmer.

“We have been suffering for almost two years plus. I tried my best. I thought I will fight because being an entrepreneur is all about fighting. So what I thought was, I thought of going to my village, I will convert my wetland to dryland. Then I thought I will sell or maybe go for a mortgage from the bank,” he said.

But he hit a dead end with this plan since there is a restriction on converting wetland to dryland.

Other than such hindrances, Sonam added that the policies framed in the country are double standards which makes it difficult for entrepreneurs like him to work.

“For us, for entrepreneurs to do business and send it to other countries, we have so many policies. But to sell all these uncertified products or small duplicate products that are coming into our country, this is allowed to sell. That’s why I say there is a double standard in the policies. So all these policies are actually killing the entrepreneurs,” he added.

With the unfavourable situation haunting their endeavour, some entrepreneurs have already left their businesses. Many have also done their English Language Proficiency test to work abroad. Recently, the Bhutan Association of Entrepreneurs wrote to the world bank country office seeking support to establish a start-up campus on the outskirts of Thimphu. As per the association, the problem of unavailable space has affected many aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. The Start-up centre at Changzamtog unfortunately is unable to meet the growing demand.

However, entrepreneurship is not all that bleak. An entrepreneur says as much as the entrepreneurial journey is full of uncertainties and risk, it is also thrilling.

“The pandemic also affected me a lot. People from my village sent me different kinds of cereals and my business wasn’t in production. We were in lockdown. And when they sent the materials, we had to transfer the money. So I faced such challenges but it is you who needs to be motivated. I said If not today, I will work it out someday,” said Chimi Dema, the Founder of Druna Ghu.

While the food processing business was able to sustain somehow even during the pandemic, it is mostly those businesses like Sonam’s which depended on tourism that still suffers the brunt of this pandemic.

“Possibly I might not continue as an entrepreneur. So my goal will be to go to another country like Australia, the USA or Canada to make a living because I also have a family,” Sonam said.

While Sonam waits for his life to get back on track, there are hundreds if not thousands who still aspire to become an entrepreneur. Looking at the bright side: if you are an entrepreneur, you get to do what you want and you get to do it your way but it also takes an enormous amount of hard work. And most importantly you need thick skin to survive the rough ride that comes with the choice.

Samten Dolkar

Edited by Sonam

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